Expert Labs – How Crowdsourcing Can Work

10 12 2009

Expert Labs is “a new, non-profit independent lab, with a mandate to help policy makers in the U.S. Federal Government tap into the expertise of their fellow citizens.” It is funded by the excellent American Association for the Advancement of Science.

What Do They Do?

Their own explanation is pretty clear:

  1. We ask policy makers what questions they need answered to make better decisions.
  2. We help the technology community create the tools that will get those answers.
  3. We prompt the scientific & research communities to provide the answers that will make our country run better.

Why is this Good?

One of the common criticisms of crowdsourcing for government is that it is essentially useless for the specialised functions of government. There is no point asking a fisherman how we might improve digital public service procurement. However, Expert Labs taps in to the specialist communities which deal with related issues during their professional or recreational activities anyway.

Expert Labs has positioned itself as a new kind of organisation – not a think tank; not a charity; not an investment fund. It is an organising network, a connector of people and technologies. Their approach to crowdsourcing ways to save tax dollars demonstrates this combination of flexibility and focus.

Should we be trying to do something similar with our network?

Ali Unwin ( @aliunwin)

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